COVID test demand offers boost to city region firms

Based in Liverpool BioGrad Diagnostics has secured a place on an approved list of Government COVID-19 testers and AlphaBiolabs is taking on extra staff to meet demand. Tony McDonough reports

Dr Natalie Kenny
Dr Natalie Kenny, chief executive of BioGrad Diagnostics


Two private Liverpool city region laboratory operations are seeing a surge in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

BioGrad Diagnostics, based at Liverpool Science Park, has become the only North West firm conducting tests for the Government while AlphaBiolabs is recruiting extra staff for its new testing facility at Sci-tech Daresbury.

The Department of Health and Social Care has added BioGrad to its list of non-NHS providers who may be able to conduct tests for the presence of the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2).

Only companies that meet the Government’s required standards for private sector providers of general COVID-19 testing are added to the list, with the majority being based in the south.

Listed providers must also be reviewed by UKAS, the UK’s National Accreditation Body, responsible for determining the technical competence and integrity of organisations such as those offering testing, calibration and certification services.

BioGrad provides a responsive and dynamic antigen and antibody testing facility and has supplies more than 200,000 Covid tests in Liverpool since the first lockdown in March. The firm has also recently opened new testing clinics in Shrewsbury and Manchester.

Dr Natalie Kenny, chief executive of BioGrad Diagnostics, said: “This is testimony to the strength and commitment of the leadership and the team here at BioGrad and our mission that everyone should have access to gold standard healthcare and education.”

With laboratories at Sci-Tech Daresbury and Warrington, AlphaBiolabs has created 10 new roles to cater for demand from UK businesses for its coronavirus testing kit which gives results within 15 minutes. It takes its overall headcount past 100.

It says it has been swamped with orders since it launched the rapid screening kit in September. The test, which works in similar fashion to a pregnancy test, can detect the presence of COVID-19 after the onset of symptoms or from 14 days after initial exposure to the virus. It identifies specific proteins, known as antigens, which are situated on the cell membranes of the virus.

AlphaBiolabs COVID-19 test offers results in just 15 minutes


David Thomas, managing director of AlphaBiolabs, said the kit has become the company’s best-selling test as businesses seek to screen their staff without having to wait days for the results to become available following laboratory analysis.

The kit, which is sold for professional or business use only, is outselling AlphaBiolabs’ back-to-lab PCR coronavirus test by a factor of more than 10 to one. He said sales of the antigen kit during November and December combined were more than 70% higher than those in September and October.

Orders for January are rocketing as employers gear up for a fresh surge in COVID-19 testing programmes when staff to return to work after the festive period. The rapid antigen test is carried out on-site by taking samples from the nose and throat. The result is made known via a portable immunoassay screening cassette. 

“Businesses across the UK are clearly trying to manage and navigate their operations in a proactive manner,” said Mr Thomas.

“Orders for January are extremely high, amid concerns of a third wave of the virus in the new year as a result of people socialising with family and friends or travelling abroad over the festive period.

Employers are concerned that staff may have been exposed to the virus and could be about to bring a COVID viral infection into the workplace, and they are looking at effective testing programmes to protect their businesses and workforce.”

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